Why Nintendo making mobile games is a bad idea

In the midst of their recent financial woes, Nintendo is currently looking at a great state of transition, or as others might even call it, a great state of turmoil. So to help get themselves out of this rut, the Mushroom Kingdom creators have been slowly investigating other areas of the industry, including the potential of game development on tablets and smartphones: something that most mobile gamers have been dying to hear for quite a while now.

Maybe it’s because of their bright and colorful worlds, or their quirky characters and lighthearted stories, but the general consensus has been that Nintendo games would just go hand-in-hand with the nature of mobile gaming. Well I’m not so sure.

The last time we heard from the “Will they, won’t they?” campaign, Nintendo has reiterated once again that the company will NOT be making their own mobile games going forward (but might still use the platform for certain kinds of game demos). However, they also recently announced their intentions to begin licensing some of Nintendo’s biggest video game properties to outside parties, in addition to experimenting with a new operating system that would function in a similar way to what we have now with iOS or Android. And then of course, there’s the whole spiel on potentially making educational Mario games on a Nintendo-manufactured Android tablet.

newsIs this really what Nintendo games will look like on mobile?

So as you can see, your guess is as good as mine right now as to whether or not Nintendo will ever actually dip their toes into the mobile games business. In a way, you can’t really blame the Big N’s hesitation: a steady stream of AAA-quality Nintendo games on tablets and smartphones would most likely damage their very own 3DS market, which is one of the only things saving the company right now from consistently dire Wii U sales. And beyond that point, the Wii U is still hurting for good first-party releases as it stands. If Nintendo split their resources to start making mobile games, who knows how slim that game lineup would look in 2015 and beyond?

But let’s say they did eventually decide to start making mobile games by the end of this year: is that something that we, as Nintendo fans, would really even want? Sure, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve happily joined in on the excited clamor of “OMG Pokémon on iPad plz!” but if you stop to think about it, the actual reality of Nintendo games on mobile would likely be vastly different than our idealistic expectations of a $0.99 Pokémon game (despite the many third-party NES and GameBoy emulators that are currently available on Android today).

If there’s one critical thing we can say about Nintendo right now, it’s that the video game company always seems to be a few steps behind the times. They’ve just now put out their first HD game console, and the thing isn’t even capable of playing DVDs. For as much as their digital eShop has improved over the years, it’s still a little rough around the edges, and they’ve only just now begun experimenting with things like full retail game downloads and DLC. And don’t even get me started on their use of those things they call Friend Codes…

newsWho wants to play Super Mario Free-to-Play World?

So if Nintendo made a mobile game in 2014, the odds are that it would probably be a little bit archaic. They would also probably adhere to the genres that have already proven successful for the platform thus far, so I’d put my money on seeing a Super Mario Runner or The Legend of Zelda: Rupee Crush Saga way before we get a full-fledged Super Mario World. Granted though, there are still some games on the eShop right now that I think could be a great fit for a mobile port, like the recently released NES Remix. But then, of course, there is the issue of pricing.

I would imagine that most new Nintendo games on mobile would be aggressively priced at $14.99 and above, as they are for the most part on the eShop, which might as well be $100 as far as the mobile industry is concerned. The alternative is going the free-to-play route, and we have no idea how Nintendo would even go about experimenting with something like that. We’ve already seen how developers can overuse free-to-play tactics to ruin an old gaming classic with last month’s Tales of Phantasia (and we can’t forget about the public outcry over EA’s recent handling of the Dungeon Keeper reboot). Can you imagine paying $0.99 in The Legend of Zelda for an extra handful of rupees, or $2.99 to upgrade you bomb bag? I can almost see the angry pitchforks and torches as I type this.

newsSony is making their own mobile games right now based on popular PlayStation IPs, but no one seems to care.

Another point I think is important to raise is why we feel the need for Nintendo to make mobile games in the first place. After all, Sony has been making their own mobile games lately to help promote a few exclusive PlayStation titles, like the mediocre endless runner Ratchet and Clank: Before the Nexus and the Candy Crush knock-off Knack’s Quest, and you don’t see anyone going on about those games, do you? Who’s to say that Nintendo’s experience on mobile would turn out any different?

My best bet (and hope) is that Nintendo will make some standalone apps on mobile devices, rather than full-fledged games: kind of like the Pokédex app on the 3DS, or the Pokémon Bank that just debuted on the handheld system this week. Given Nintendo’s history and the current trends of mobile gaming, I don’t see any other way to make it all run smoothly. But now we want to hear what you think about the topic! Do you still want to see legit Nintendo games turn up on mobile platforms? Or do you think it’s probably best if Nintendo and mobile just remain minor acquaintances?

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